Hailing from a celebrated family of India, politician Priya Dutt has experienced both – the glitz of celluloid and the complex world of politics.
Other than being a Congress MP from Mumbai North-West constituency, she is known more for being the sister of Bollywood superstar Sanjay Dutt and the daughter of the legendary superstar duo - Sunil Dutt and Nargis Dutt.
In an exclusive heart-to-heart conversation with Mimansa Malik of Zee Media in Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’s ‘Zara Hatke’ show, Priya Dutt opens up on various facets of her life, on brother Sanjay, on late father Sunil Dutt, on plight of women safety in India, on her being in politics and also on what she prefers doing in her spare time to beat the stress.
In the context of women's safety, when asked if she ever feared roaming on Mumbai streets, Priya said, “Not at all”.
“I value my freedom as every woman should...” Priya said, adding that neither her parents nor she ever had any feeling of being insecure on Mumbai roads.
However, she admitted having faced unwelcome comments and eve-teasing often, especially during her first year in college.
“It was a tough time for me as Sanjay was in rehab... so when people learnt that I was his sister, they started passing comments and that resulted in squabbles and fights (she laughs)... as I was not the girl who would listen to everything with downcast eyes and walk away”, said Priya.
Talking about how safe a common man feels nowadays, Priya admitted that the security scenario has worsened and every parent does feel scared when their children step out of home.
“If I had a daughter, I would have felt scared to send her out,” the Congress MP said.
On being asked why even after 66 years of independence, we don’t have faith in the system, Priya replied by saying that ensuring safety is a collective effort and that the “implementation of laws is on us”.
Enumerating her recommendations on safety measures for women to the Maharashtra CM, after the infamous December 16 gang-rape in Delhi, Priya emphasised on the need of bringing in police reforms and ensuring ease of registering FIRs.
The Congress lawmaker stated that there should be women constables in police stations as it is very tough for a woman to answer when a man quizzes her about what all she went through and then it is like “she is being raped all over again”.
Priya added that mothers must bring up their sons in a way so that they learn to respect women.
“If a person can’t respect his own mother or sister, he can’t respect anyone,” she argued.
On rising cases of crimes against women, Priya attributed a part of it to increased media exposure and the resulting aspirations and frustrations in the teenagers.
“We have opened up our country too soon. There is so much media exposure today, through TV or through internet, that every child, be it from slums, middle class or elite, wants to achieve all and that frustration is coming out in various ways,” said Priya.
Talking about her famous father Sunil Dutt, who was also a former Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Priya revealed that he didn’t like the idea of her being in politics and never groomed her for being a politician.
Priya also said that her first day in the Parliament was “like her first day in college” and she did feel lost in the beginning.
When the conversation veered to brother Sanjay Dutt, a tremulous twitch ran through her face. With tinges of pain and anxiety in her voice, Priya said that as a family they had been through 20 years of ordeal and his brother could weather the tough times “because he was Sanjay Dutt... because he was Sunil Dutt’s son”.
Priya regretted that “the picture is still not clear on Sanjay and people don’t really know why he has been convicted”.
The young politician said she had never sought any political support for her brother Sanjay and it had become “more of a media debate” and had “nothing to do with us”.
With annoyance vivid on her face, Priya expressed how the TV debates on Sanjay questioning why the actor was given a special treatment for being a celebrity, infuriated her.
“I felt very aggrieved and enraged when you say Sanjay is a celebrity. On one hand, you say he is a celebrity, on the other, everybody passes judgement on us”, said an exasperated Priya.
Recounting the memories of Sunil Dutt, Priya said how her father was a pillar of strength and a big support for the family.
“In times like these (Sanjay’s episode), we used to get very agitated but he would remain calm. Though the grief would be evident on his ace but he would say – This too will pass and it became a mantra for us”.
“Had he been there, things would have been different” said Priya on how she and Sanjay both miss him terribly.
When asked about the tough time when she lent her shoulder to brother Sanjay when he broke down in front of media, Priya said, “I often feel I have let down Sanjay and haven’t done enough for him but I have always been there for him as a sister”.
Speaking further on her family, Priya said that every family has its share of ups and downs but “life is too short and we love each other”.
She expressed how the constant talks about her brother Sanjay made her angry.
“I feel very angry but I feel I can’t sit and explain to entire world. We know what we are going through and as our father said – this too shall pass”, said Priya.
Of brother Sanjay’s childhood, Priya said, “He has always been a clear hearted person as well as very naughty”.
“He has been a pure hearted man and the problem with our family is that we easily trust and accept people and in the process we get hurt,” she added.
Priya admitted that her family lacked the understanding of “who can approach us with a wrong intention” and this was what brought problems.
Priya also revisited old memories as she shared her thoughts with the talk show host on old family pictures that adorned her living room wall.
On a lighter note, when asked about her favourite hobby, Priya said she loves dabbling in paper craft, making Lego models, etc. She said she loves making designs and models and it acts as a great stress-buster. Priya said she spends her free time with her husband and kids.